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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Experiencing L.A. at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach (Part I)

This past weekend my wife, kids and I were back in Los Angeles - and had a chance to spend an afternoon at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach. 

We took our kids here many times when we lived in L.A. (we actually had an annual pass one year). Fun to be back. 

Shark tank. 

My son put one of the pics he took on his Facebook profile. 

Might have been this one. Nice.  

We first took our kids here when they were 2 1/2 and 5 - wow, the time has really flown by. More on that in a bit. 

Penguin in the new penguins exhibit. There's a section where you can actually watch them swimming over your head - really fun. 

Love this photo of my daughter looking down into one of the tanks. 

An aquarium is certainly not unique to Los Angeles. They're found all over the country. Really, all over the world. The Aquarium of the Pacific is focused on the undersea environments found in the Tropical Pacific, the Northern Pacific, and off the coast of California. But worth a visit if you're in Los Angeles. 

Bat Rays. 

You can reach in and touch the rays. 

I didn't. Fortunately, my kids did. 

The aquarium has a bunch of little embossing stations where kids can can stamp their programs. Maybe it was nostalgia from previous visits, but fun to see that my kids were still into it. 

Love this photo my wife took. That's actually a very camoflauged crab at the bottom of the tank. Incredible. 

"There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number - living things both large and small" wrote the Psalmist. As I've commented in previous posts, the creation points to The Creator. 

I'm also reminded of the words of Solomon: "It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings." 

For most of human history, what existed below the surface of the oceans was known to God alone. While as early as 360 BC Aristotle mentioned the use of a diving bell, it's only within the last seventy years that technology like suba diving has even existed, opening up a whole new world to observe and explore. 

My experience has been limited to some snorkeling, off the coast of California - as well as once or twice off the Florida Keys and on Hawaii. 

Sea anemones. Check the local tide charts and it's very possible to see the same things first hand at Los Angeles area tide pools (here's a link to a previous blog post). 

Jellyfish. According to the good people at wikipedia, "As jellyfish are not even vertebrates, let alone true fish, the usual word jellyfish is considered by some to be a misnomer, and American public aquariums have popularized use of the terms jellies or sea jellies instead." 

As my only experience is getting stung once as a kid, I prefer to see them behind glass. 

Famlly at the lobby with a massive lifesized model of a Blue Whale. 

More in Part II next week. 

© 2012


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Thanksgiving Reflections

image credit:

Saw this earlier today on Facebook, and thought it was worth reposting. 

The original image is apparently at the Pilgrim Hall Museum in Plymouth, Massachusetts. 

Thanksgiving takes on a whole new meaning when you consider historical context - and tremendous cost paid. 

With a appreciative and grateful heart, wishing everyone near and far a happy Thanksgiving. 

© 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Experiencing L.A. in Sullivan Canyon, Santa Monica Mountains

Sullivan Canyon - Santa Monica Mountains, Los Angeles

I took this photograph about 20 years ago while mountain biking in the Santa Monica Mountains. This was back before digital photography. Back when we used film and it actually cost money to take photographs. This was only one of two photographs I remember taking that day. 

I had a copy of this photograph in my living room. Everyone always wanted to know where I took it. People were suprised - shocked - when I told them "Los Angeles."

We were on this trail during the winter. Great time to go. After some rain, parts of the trail became a creek. 

Here's a link to the trailhead, as well as a few more photos. Have fun exploring. 

View Sullivan Canyon, Los Angeles in a larger map

© 2012


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Experiencing L.A. in Little Ethiopia

One of the more unique ethnic neighborhoods here in Los Angeles is Little Ethiopia. It's a small cluster of businesses and restaurants on Fairfax south of Wilshire Blvd, in between Olympic and Whitworth. 

Little Ethiopia is just a few blocks south of Levitated Mass and the Wall Along Wilshire - public art at or next to LACMA, which I've just blogged about the past two weeks. 

Like much of Los Angeles, Little Ethiopia is strip of low rise commercial development, surrounded by a neighborhood of older single family homes, and small apartment buildings.

A friend from grad school who grew up in Ethiopia (his parents served as Christian missionaries there) introduced me to this area - and Ethiopian food - some twenty years ago.

Little Ethiopia is actually a mixture of newer Ethiopian and older Jewish owned businesses. It's interesting to see Amharic (Ethiopian) script on one store next to Hebrew on the next. It's not so much a clash of cultures as simply existing side by side. 

There are half a dozen Ethiopian restaurants up and down Fairfax. Take your pick.

My wife and I ended up at Nyala Ethiopian Cuisine. We parked on the street, but they've also got free parking around back.

We got their just when it opened. Most restaurants in Los Angeles start really picking up between 7-8pm.

Nyala has a interesting display of traditional Ethiopian wares. I forgot to check and see if these were for sale, or just to add ambiance. Maybe both.

We'd been here once before with the kids. We like exposing our kids to different food and cultures, but they were not fans. Maybe just too young. 

It was definitely more enjoyable for my wife and I to have a date without the kids. We ordered the vegetarian combo and meet combo. A little something of everything.

So what is Ethiopian food? It's spicy vegetable and meat dishes, usually in the form of a thick stew, called "wot," served atop a large spongy sourdough flatbread, called "injera."

You don't use utensils, instead you just break off a small piece of injura, and then use it to grab some of the food. I'm not sure if Ethiopian food will ever gain the popularity of something like pizza (which was at one time considered "ethnic"), but we found unique and very delicious. 

As a Christian living in Los Angeles, I appreciate the opportunity to not only sample different cuisine, but also to interact with people from all over the world. Will I ever travel to Ethiopia? Probably not. Do I have opportunities to interact with people from places like Ethiopia? Yes. (Although I'm the first to admit I don't always take them.)

There are times when I'm rushed, communication is too difficult, or I'm just lazy. The New Testament reminds me that Philip, one of the early followers of Christ, wasn't deterred by interacting with a someone from another culture - and a the destiny of an entire country was changed (Acts 8:26-40).

I like to think that Christians of all people should be the most welcoming to men and women from other cultures. Sadly, that's often not the case. 

A final look north up Fairfax towards Wilshire Blvd. 

Here's a link to Nyala Ethiopia Cuisine website. 


© 2012
originally posted 9/12/09



Saturday, November 3, 2012

Cold Warriors on Wilshire: the Wende Museum's Berlin Wall

With the November election just around the corner, I thought it appropriate to post this mural of Presidents John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. 

These amazing side-by-side portraits were painted by Los Angeles based muralist Kent Twitchell on sections of the Berlin Wall located at 5900 Wilshire Blvd. 

The Wall Along Wilshire features ten sections of the original Berlin Wall. Measuring nearly forty feet wide, it is the world's longest stretch of the Wall outside of Germany. 

The Wall Along Wilshire was assembled in 2009 as a component of The Wall Project, the Museum’s public art initiative commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. 

The Wall Along Wilshire is located across the street from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). I literally stumbled across it last month after taking a few minutes to see Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass a few hundred yards away (see last week's post). 

Levitated Mass at the LACMA is a unusual piece of modern art; the Wall Along Wilshire is a piece of modern history. Levitated Mass got national media coverage. The Wall Along Wilshire: not so muchLike other pieces of modern art, there is a sense of frivolousness to Levitate Mass. Like other pieces of history, there is a sense of soberness to the Wall Along Wilshire

And in a sense, ten million dollar modern art projects like Levitated Mass exist because the Berlin Wall does not. 

"We Are All Berliners" ("Ich Bin Ein Berliner") - President Kennedy's immortal words in June 1963. Here's a link to a video of the speech. 

"Tear Down This Wall" - Ronald Reagan's moving challenge to Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev in June 1987. And here's a link to a video of President Reagan's speech. 

By the Fall of 1989, just 2 1/2 years after Reagan's speech, the Wall was opened - siginaling the end of the Cold War, and - ultimately - the Berlin Wall. 

love muralist Kent Twitchell's portraits of Cold War Presidents Kennedy and Reagan. Democrat and Republican: two generations, two eras, two Cold Warriors who both challenged the Soviet Union regarding the Wall - one when it was first completed, the other before it finally came down. 

Here's what the text says: 

"The Wall Along Wilshire features ten sections of the original Berlin Wall. Measuring nearly forty feet wide, it is the world longest stretch of the Wall outside of Germany. The Wall Along Wilshire was assembled in 2009 as a component of The Wall Project, the Museum’s public art initiative commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Wend Museum invited L.A. based artists Kent Twitchell, Farrah Karapetian and Marie Astrid Gonzalez to participate in the project and paired them with French-born, Berlin based muralist Thierry Noir who was one of the first artists to paint the Berlin Wall in 1984. Through their participation, the installation recalls the outdoor “Eastside Gallery” in Berlin, made famous by the international artists whose collective intervention transformed the Berlin Wall into a canvas reflecting real and imagined divisions. The last four segments contain original graffiti from Cold War era Berlin, including an iconic image of Bimer’s green bear. The Wall Along Wilshire is part of The Wende Museum’s permanent collection."

Here's what the text says on the other side of the wall: 

"Behind the Wall"

"As part of The Wende Museum’s SURVEILLANCE PROJECT, Behind the Wall brings together street artist from Los Angeles, London, and Berlin to interpret the roll of surveillance in our lives from the Cold War until today. From left to right, the murals by Herakut, Retna, and D*Face, cover nine segments belonging to the ‘east side’ of the original Berlin Wall- the side that face the East German death strip and was never painted."

"In order to preserve the segments and prevent moisture from rusting the Wall’s inner skeleton, a special water-resistant primer has been applied and the artist’s paints provide and additional layer of protective coating."

"With continued care, The Wende Museum’s Berlin Wall segments will remain a historical and vibrant outdoor canvas that connects contemporary issues with significant historical events that impacted the globe – the East German peaceful revolution, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the end of the Cold War."

Many many thanks to the Wende Museum for this OUTSTANDING display. 

It is incredible that Los Angeles is home to the largest section of the Berlin War outside of Germany. It is a piece of history. And worth seeing. 

And I'm definitely looking forward to visiting The Wende Museum (located six miles south in Culver City) sometime in the near future. 

© 2012